William Stanley was born in 1858. During his lifetime he was granted 129 patents covering a wide range of electric devices. The most notable of these is the induction coil, a transformer that creates alternating current electricity. In the 1880s every electricity distribution system used direct current (DC). The problem is that DC transmission over long distances is impractical, requires thick wires, is dangerous and could not be used for lighting. On the other hand, alternating current (AC) systems did not have these drawbacks. AC voltage systems could be varied by use of induction coils, but no practical coil system had been invented. Stanley's patent #349,611 changed all this and became the prototype for all future transformers.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Stanley attended private schools before enrolling at Yale University. He began to study law at age 21 but less than a semester later left school to look for a job in the emerging field of electricity.
Stanley's first job was as an electrician with one of the early manufacturers of telegraph keys and fire alarms. He designed one of the country's first electrical installations for a store on New York's Fifth Avenue. After inventor and industrialist George Westinghouse learned of Stanley's accomplishments, he hired Stanley as his chief engineer at his Pittsburgh factory. It was during this time that Stanley began work on the transformer.
After Stanley left Pittsburgh, in 1886 he built the first AC system, providing lighting for offices and stores on the Main Street of Great Barrington, Massachusetts. He made transformers, auxiliary electrical equipment, and electrical appliances. The Stanley Electric Manufacturing Company was purchased by General Electric in 1903.
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